Tunbridge Approves Upgrades for Town Hall, Garage

Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Tunbridge — Voters approved a 2.2 percent budget increase and allocated additional funds to the Tunbridge Volunteer Fire Department at Town Meeting on Tuesday.

By a voice vote, residents approved a $585,468 general fund budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year, which amounts to an increase of roughly $10,000 over the current year’s.

They also passed a $831,060 highway budget by voice vote, an increase of roughly $21,000 over the current spending plan.

Officials said the increases are mainly due to fixed costs, including health care and salary increases.

The budgets also set aside money for the installation of new windows in the town garage and road repairs. The Selectbord also plans to set aside surplus funding to restore a failing stone wall behind the Town Hall.

“Things seem to be going fairly well for us,” Selectboard Chairman Gary Mullen said while reviewing the budget on Tuesday.

Town auditors estimate the budget will result in a 61 cent tax rate per $100 of a property’s assessed value, a decrease of 8 cents.

That would amount to a $1,547 tax bill for a resident with a home valued at $250,000.

The general fund budget also keeps Tunbridge’s contribution to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department the same as last year. The town gives $6,000 to the department annually for police services and patrols.

Officials said they also intend to renovate the kitchen at Town Hall in the coming year with new appliances, cabinets and other improvements meant to make the space more welcoming.

“A number of different groups use the Town Hall kitchen and it’s tired,” said Jonni Spaulding, who is planning the renovation for the town.

Spaulding, who owns Catamount Kitchens and Design, intends to purchase the improvements from vendors at cost. The project is estimated to cost $50,000, she said.

Voters rejected two amendments that would have raised salaries for town officials.

Betsy Race proposed adding $3,700 to the general fund budget to increase stipends at Town Hall. She also requested the town add $4,000 to the highway budget to better compensate the road foreman and road crews.

“I feel that it’s been a while since there’s been an increase for the Selectboard and they’re going to be tackling some pretty big issues here,” Race said of the amendment.

However, some residents were skeptical the raises were necessary, and instead told the Selectboard the town would be better served sticking to a pay schedule.

Others argued that some officials were overpaid.

“I just think when we come to vote people into office, we should be voting for people that have got the town’s interest, not their own interest,” said Ted Hoyt.

Both of Race’s amendments failed by a voice vote. However, the Selectboard told voters they would be discussing stipends in the coming year, particularly for positions that are now filled by volunteers.

The Selectboard, Recreation Commission, constable and health officer are all allocated funds, but other boards are not, said Selectboard member John O’Brien.

“We just want to be equitable and fair,” he said. “We want to appreciate everybody’s efforts.”

Residents suggested the Selectboard discuss potential payments with each board, and consider bringing back a proposal for next year’s Town Meeting.

Voters on Tuesday also approved a $39,450 contribution to the fire department, which amounts to a roughly $8,000 increase over the current year. Fire officials said most of the increase was necessary to maintain firefighter training.

Residents also approved appropriating $14,342 to local nonprofits, and approved a resolution that urges the state to obtain 90 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2050. Vermont is making “insufficient progress” toward its current energy goals, according to the article.

Joseph Paquin won a ballot vote, 68-21, to unseat Jackie Higgins for a one-year term as collector of delinquent taxes.

Voice votes re-elected Selectboard member John O’Brien to another three-year term. Race was elected to another stint as auditor, and Spaulding was elected to the Trustees of Public Funds to replace Pam Dietz. Moderator Euclid Farnham also fended off a challenge by Gordon Barnaby to retain his position in a 78-40 ballot vote.